26 Mar 2015

John Key heckled in Northland

8:11 pm on 26 March 2015

Prime Minister John Key has headed straight to Dargaville today after returning from Japan, only to be heckled by Northland by-election voters.

Prime Minister John Key, second left, and National candidate Mark Osborne in Northland on 26 March 2015.

Prime Minister John Key, second left, and National candidate Mark Osborne in Northland on 26 March 2015. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

Radio New Zealand reporter Benedict Collins, in Northland, said Mr Key was heckled during a 20 minute walk along the street meeting locals, and was shown placards saying 'Vote Winston'.

One woman said, "Don't bother talking to me. I've already voted, I voted for Winston Peters ... because we've been neglected here for the last 37 years."

Mr Collins said quite a few people went up to the Prime Minister and spoke to him about local issues, which they felt were not being addressed by the Government.

Voters in Northland

National candidate Mark Osborne on the campaign trail today in Northland. Photo: RNZ / Benedict Collins

National Party candidate Mark Osborne is far behind in the polls with two days until Saturday's by-election.

Mr Key said he had always intended to return to the electorate to show Northlanders that the National Party cared about them and wanted to retain the seat.

He said his immediate appearance there, direct from Japan, was not a sign that National was desperate.

"No, the counter-argument would be that I was off-shore doing something, it was great work for New Zealand but I didn't care about the people of Northland. We're in a by-election, we're fighting hard for that."

He talked down the significance of Wednesday's 3News-Reid Research poll, which put New Zealand First leader Winston Peters ahead of Mr Osborne by 20 points, saying it was no indication of National losing voter support more widely.

Tonight's TVNZ-Colmar Brunton poll has placed Mr Peters on 53 percent, 17 points ahead of National's Mark Osborne. Labour's candidate Willow-Jean Prime was on 9 percent.

It surveyed 501 Northland voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

"By-elections can be very quirky things, I mean, for a start-off, our national polling is very high and it remains high." Mr Key said, adding that National was fighting hard for the seat.

"We're in a by-election and we know we are up against it. You've got all the other political parties coalescing around Winston Peters but we've got a great candidate and lot of National voters."

However, leading Northland farmer Richard Drake said Mr Osborne has been done no favours by having senior politicians continually babysit him.

Mr Drake was among Dargaville community leaders at a meeting yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, and Mr Osborne - who didn't speak.

"People who meet him one to one can see that he's got potential, he's got a broad range of knowledge and understanding of the issues. In some ways I think he's been frustrated by his own party in a bit of an overkill."

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